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Old 04-17-2013, 06:37 AM
Location: "Daytonnati"
4,241 posts, read 7,181,346 times
Reputation: 3014


Recent read two books on processed food:

Pandora's Lunchbox, How Processed Food Took Over The American Meal
(link to AV Club review)


Salt Sugar Fat
(link to NYT Review)

I guess the parts I liked about these books was the historical/pop culture aspects and factoids, like the origins of Corn Flakes, the truth behind who Betty Crocker..of cookbook fame...was, etc). The parts I found disturbing is how artificial food is...that some of it is so processed that it has to be re-flavored to make it palatable, and that the flavors are engineered to taste exceptionally good, better than I could make using traditional cooking & baking methods.

Yet, in the end, I sort of see this as inevetible. The books became, to me, just a gee-whiz behind the scenes look and a historical/pop culture diversion vs perhaps the "muckraking" their authors may have envisioned (Salt Sugar Fat has more of the axe to grind, so to speak, than Pandoras Lunchbox, which was lighter in tone).

Given our modern world, which requires a lot of time at work and commuting and less and less time availble for actually cooking using raw ingredients means that processed makes sense from a time perspective.

And there is the reality of modern civilization, where economies of scale and such makes it cheaper manufacture and market processed food with long shelf life (which raw does not have, if we are talking meats, fruit, & vegtables), so there is a cost issue, too...that the population we have could not survive if we didn't have industrialized food production and mass marketing.

And so what if flavor is engineered to tase exceptionally good and appealing? It seems that is a benefit...so we can have convenient food that also tastes good.

There are, of course, health issues due to excess consumption, but I think the old motto or dictum from the classical Greek philosophers should apply here:

"Everything In Moderation, Nothing in Excess"

So I think processed foods are ok if you dont use them ALL the time. I still do a lot of my own cooking and the ingredients, except for things like sausage and mayonnaise and things like that, are presumably minimally processed (like tuna, frozen chopped spinach, etc). But I dont mind buying the occasional Hostess Apple Pie (or whoever makes those) or Tim Hortons Maple Danish (yum!) and so forth. Stuff I usually wouldnt make at home or have the skill to make at home.

Yet there are lines to be drawn...do you make your own marinara or spaghetti sauce or do you buy Ragu or Prego (Prego was discussed a bit in one of these books as an example of re-engineered flavoring)

So ..your thoughts...Processed and/or Making it Yourself?
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Old 04-17-2013, 07:28 AM
Location: Philaburbia
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Meh. Processed food has its place, and that place varies from person to person, depending on their threshold for buying and preparing food and their individual tastes.

Some things -- marinara sauce -- are easy to make at home; other things -- maple glazed donuts -- are not.
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Old 04-17-2013, 07:36 AM
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
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I think most of us who enjoy cooking and care about how our family eats try to keep the processed food to a minimum but there is a place for them in all our homes. We have been living with processed for generations if you really take time to think about it. For us, they are a rarity but we do use them. I will buy a ready made pizza from time to time, we keep a few cans of soup, mostly for making sauses but to have in a hurry as well and yes, we even have frozen fries and hash browns in the freezer. We do not buy prepared, frozen entrée ever. That doesn't mean people should not. Like anything, moderation is the secret and I realize working mothers have only 24 hours a day, like the rest of us. Thank God they do have options. Oh, I hear people say they can cook for an entire week on the weekends, well for Supermom that might work, but everyone needs a little free time. I do have a problem with people who feed their family almost totally on processed foods, they are not overall healthy, they are usually higher in fat or sodium or both and the cost is outrageous if you are feeding a family.
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Old 04-17-2013, 07:51 AM
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We don't buy many processed foods any more. What we do buy regularly are certain condiments.
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Old 04-17-2013, 08:20 AM
Location: San Antonio, TX
11,495 posts, read 26,892,181 times
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I don't buy a lot of processed foods. I've started making my own spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce, cooking beans to make refried beans...I even made egg rolls from scratch the other day. We don't eat tv dinners or mixes like hamburger helper. I am fortunate that I have lots of time to cook...when I used to work, we used a lot more convenience foods.

I'm allergic to red 40 and I keep being unpleasantly surprised by how many things contain it...I got a migraine from eating doritos the other day.
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Old 04-17-2013, 08:26 AM
Location: Prospect, KY
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I am retired so I have the time and desire to make much of our food from scratch - it is a lot of work but I know we are healthier because of it. Health is a priorty for us....so we can cut down on the time we spend on other things in favor of whole organic food buying/prep/cooking. I am really try to reduce the use canned good as much as possible and eating at home allows us to control the ingredients that are in our meals...and we do love to eat out but we have cut back on doing that. Luckily where we live there are many farm-to-table restaurants. We don't eat fried foods, fast food or anything with refined sugar in it and we buy as much produce as we can from local organic farms....in the winter there is still quite a bit of hot house produce available. We eat a plant based diet so no meat or animal products but we do eat a very wide variety of non-animal based foods.
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Old 04-17-2013, 10:08 AM
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I am making a conscious effort to cut down on our processed food intake as well. Not that I ever used much anyway, no hamburger helper or frozen entrees EVER, but I always used to keep those Uncle Ben's 90 second rice dishes in the pantry. Then I read the long list of ingredients!!
And I still use a jarred "Sweet Basil" spaghetti sauce. I don't use it very often, and it lasts much longer in the fridge than homemade.
With having to have all baked goods gluten-free, I also don't make homemade bread any more. So i still buy bread, hamburger and hot dog buns, and dinner rolls.
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Old 04-17-2013, 11:36 AM
Location: On the corner of Grey Street
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I've cut wayyy back on processed food but there are still a few things I get now and then like sauce in a jar from the grocery store. I need to perfect making my own, but just haven't gotten there yet. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies and have started buying organic meat and dairy. It's hard to totally avoid processed food, but I think cutting back is a good start. I eat a lot of salads and stir frys.
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Old 04-17-2013, 11:41 AM
Location: Southern Illinois
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I read somewhere once that if you use the 80/20 rule, you should be fine. Howsomever, we need to remember that processed foods like hellmans mayo or raisin bran should be on the 20% side, as well as the Doritos and m&ms. Well, for better health anyway.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:52 PM
Location: "Daytonnati"
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yes, I use stuff like Hellmans, pickles and stuffed olives and cereal (usually cheerios and quaker oats) and stuff like that. Oddly enough I dont use store-bought salad dressing, prefer to mix up my own. I think thats more just a "tight food budget" thing for me.

And of course cheese is processed (like cottage cheese, Philalphia, etc), unless you get that pricey delicatessen cheese like Fromage d'Affinoise, Camenbert, etc.

Which sort of gets to my point...in that you (well..I...) really can't get away from processed food. It's just part of my grocery shopping landscape. And as I think Nmita pointed out, we've had processed food for probably nearly a century now...(corn flakes date to the ealry 1900s).
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